Hands-On Internal Auditing Class Pays Off

Award-Winning Research Sends Accounting Major to Conference Overseas

April 30, 2009

Emily Ray was looking for hands-on experience while she was finishing up her accounting degree. She found out students in a School of Management internal auditing class got just that – and it sounded intriguing.

Intriguing — and ultimately award-winning.

Her work for class led to an independent research project that studied employee reactions to internal auditing.  The results have landed her a $5,000 award and an expense-paid trip to an international conference in South Africa, where she will be honored by the trustees of the Esther Sawyer Award committee.

“I wanted to take the class when I heard that students were able to participate in an actual internal audit as part of the class project, and that sounded like really valuable experience to me,” recalls Ray. “There aren’t many classes that give you hands-on experience applying the concepts learned in the classroom, so I knew this would be a great opportunity.”

Ray, who graduated magna cum laude in December, used her class experience as the foundation for her thesis as a member of the Management Honors Program. She asked Professor Mark Salamasick, who heads the Center for Internal Auditing at UT Dallas, to be the first reader on the thesis.

“He agreed and suggested that I use my thesis project as a starting point for the Esther contest,” Ray said.

Dr. Tracey Rockett, faculty adviser for Management Honors Program, says the work Ray did on the thesis was typical of her experience with Ray as an undergraduate overall. “She’s hard-working, devoted and excited about learning,” Rockett says. “Most students choose to do a more traditional, long research paper as their honors thesis. However, Emily actually chose to do research in the field.”

“She was interested in whether companies thought that having internal auditing helped their organization. She created a survey that asked employees about their perceptions about the costs and benefits of internal auditing. In order to do this she had to write a survey, complete training for testing human subjects, administer the survey and gather and analyze the data,” Rockett said.

The Esther R. Sawyer Research Award, considered the top award in its field, is given by the Institute of Internal Auditors and will be presented to Ray at its international conference, this year being held in May in South Africa. In addition, the UT Dallas’ Internal Auditing Education Partnership program will receive a grant from the IIA Research Foundation.

Salamasick said he knew Ray’s research was the sort of work that would impress the awards committee. “Emily’s enthusiasm, energy and dedication to the project is an example of why I enjoy directing this program so much,” Salamasick says. “Here’s someone who got a taste of internal auditing but then took it a step further and explored its importance to the sound operations of a business. She’s someone I know will be able to go out in the world and make a difference.”

“It was a great experience, because it really gave me an opportunity to research what the profession is all about,” Ray says. “The more I learned about internal auditing, the more I saw it as an opportunity to be a problem solver and help businesses operate more efficiently and effectively, which is what makes internal auditing so fulfilling.”

Ray is a risk-advisory services intern with Weaver and Tidwell, a local public accounting firm. “One of the great things about public accounting is that it gives newcomers to the profession an opportunity to learn about the inner workings of a variety of industries,” Ray says. “I’ve been able to work with clients in insurance, oil and gas, and manufacturing industries through participating in different types of projects.”

 She plans to return to school to get her master’s degree.

The Center for Internal Auditing is one of the top five programs worldwide. The center, which began six years ago at UT Dallas, has produced three of the Sawyer Research Award winners in those six years.


Media Contact: Jeanne Spreier, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4759, jeanne.spreier@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Emily Ray   Emily Ray studied employee perceptions of internal auditing for an independent project that earned her an Esther Sawyer Award.

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